Some of you may know, most of you probably don’t, but the FIFA U17’s Women’s World Cup has just kicked off, and it is being hosted in New Zealand. Happily for me, England are based in Wellington, where I currently abide, and so I was lucky enough to head down to the stadium today to see our girls give Brazil a bit of a beating, and I must say, I was mightily impressed.
For years girls football has been considered a bit of a joke, and the amount of exposure it gets compared to the men’s game is criminally low. So I must admit I wasn’t expecting much from the game today, but with England in town, I had to go down and support them.
But the quality of football produced by both teams was excellent. Brazil naturally had the silky samba skills that their male counterparts are famed for, and looked dangerous at times, but England’s passing game was brilliant, with our players comfortable on the ball and usually able to pick a dangerous pass. It was this that won us the game, and in truth, the scoreline was perhaps a little harsh.
The first goal didn’t come until the 71st minute, and until then it had been a tight, enthralling affair. England made the only real clear cut opportunities up until that point, but weak finishing (literally, no power) meant the Brazilian ‘keeper easily coped. Brazil had brought the biggest gasp from the crowd though, when the crossbar was rattled from about 30 yards, with the English ‘keeper seemingly rattled.
I must apologise here, for not knowing many of the players names, if I had been provided with any sort of real matchday programme I would be able to, but all that could be mustered was a little booklet that outlined only the New Zealand team. Brazil did suffer a setback midway through the first half as Beatriz, their star 14 year old, was stretchered off, following a strong but fair challenge.
That was another thing that impressed me, the commitment shown by the English girls in the challenges. Most women’s football I have seen has been an almost pedestrian affair with possession changing hands only due to poor passes and interceptions. But the English girls were not afraid to get stuck in, and the Brazilians couldn’t handle it at times, and often took to throwing themselves to the floor in an attempt to con the referee, much like their male counterparts again.
Eventually though, England’s possession paid off, when a ball over the top down the right found Jessica Holbrook, and she cleverly clipped the ball inside, over the head of her marker, and into the path of Danielle Carter, whose touch took her into the penalty area, where she just managed to poke it past the onrushing ‘keeper and into the net. The ex-pat English in the stadium were roaring, and the Brazilian ‘keeper was replaced, injured in the collision.
After the few minutes the substitution took, Brazil restarted, but England immediately regained possession, and a few quick and slick passes then saw a slide rule ball from Isobel Christiansen pick out Laura Bruton in acres of space, and she made no mistake in sliding the ball home, and surely sealing the points for the English. Indeed from then on, Brazil rarely threatened, and in the 89th minute Paige Eli beat a few a players on the edge of the box before finding Carter, who turned and curled the ball home for her second, and England’s third.
All in all, as the saying goes, it was just like watching Brazil, except this time Brazil were wearing red and had three lions on their shirts. An assured performance, saw England entirely frustrate Brazil, and clever attacking play pounced upon Brazil’s tiring legs to bring about a comprehensive scoreline. England looked solid at the back too, reducing Brazil to taking pot-shots from distance, and were never really threatened, which discredited the underdog tag that we had held going into the game.
So I very much enjoyed the game, it’s alwayd nice to beat Brazil, and our girls showed that they have the potential to go a long way in this first U17 Women’s World Cup. The football on display was surprisingly good too, and my opinion of Women’s football greatly increased, and I advise any fellow Wellingtonians or indeed, other Kiwis, to head down and check it out, there’s nothing quite like watching football in the sun, and it sure beats revising. Exams? What exams…? There’s football on!